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Singapore is a prime business destination and many global companies — from America to China — have all flocked to our island nation to set up their businesses here.

However, this year has been a rather rocky one with economies heading south and businesses struggling to stay afloat.

Despite the pandemic, there are some companies in Singapore that have managed to overcome the odds and managed to raise funding, make acquisitions, and have seen significant growth.

Therefore, here are our bets on these 10 thriving companies in Singapore that are bound to make bigger waves in the year ahead:

1. Grab

grab founders
Image Credit: Nikkei Asian Review

Grab has become a household name in Singapore, and is no longer just a ride-hailing company. It has diversified its offerings to include food delivery and even financial services.

Most recently, it has introduced a micro-investment platform and a ‘pay later’ feature to enhance its suite of financial offerings.

In August, Grab raised US$200 million from South Korean private equity firm STIC Investments, bringing its total funding to over US$10 billion.

In terms of future investments, Alibaba is allegedly in talks to invest S$4.1 billion in Grab, and Singtel too may commit over S$600 million its digital bank venture.

Grab president Ming Maa recently announced that the company’s revenue has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. Moving forward, he said that the company will focus on expanding its financial services and merchants services business.

2. ShopBack

shopback joel leong
Image Credit: ShopBack

The cashback startup recently sold off its stake in financial platform Seedly to Hong Kong-based CompareAsiaGroup, though it did not disclose the selling price.

The sale comes two years after ShopBack acquired Seedly to venture into the personal finance space. Founded in 2016, Seedly claims to have over 1.1 million unique monthly visitors to its personal finance community platform.

Following the sale, ShopBack said that it will continue to run as an independently branded standalone platform and plans to collaborate with more business and build up more product features.

ShopBack has aggressively expanded to Korea and Vietnam this year despite the pandemic, and saw a significant surge in demand due to the e-commerce boom.

3. Carousell

carousell
Image Credit: Carousell

Carousell raised US$80 million from South Korean tech giant Naver in September, bringing its valuation to US$900 million.

Although it’s not yet profitable, it is fast rising to join the rankings of a unicorn company in Southeast Asia.

It saw more than a billion dollars worth of transactions on its platform between February and June, and plans to double down on its Services category in 2021. This includes home services like plumbing, house cleaning and maintaining air conditioners.

According to Carousell co-founder Quek Siu Rui, their goal is to get the company to profitability in the next three to four years and exit by 2024.

4. Ninja Van

ninja van founders
Image Credit: Ninja Van

Ninja Van raised US$279 million in April and its valuation currently stands at US$740 million.

The Singapore-based company has raised a total of US$400 million since it was launched in 2014.

The potential unicorn currently operates in six markets: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It works with e-commerce firms including Alibaba Group’s Lazada, Indonesia’s Tokopedia and Sea’s Shopee; and has clocked an increase of 2.5 times in parcel volume over the past few months following the surge in demand for e-commerce.

5. ONE Championship

one championship chatri sityodtong
Image Credit: Will Baxter via Financial Times

ONE Championship raised US$70 million in June and its valuation has already surpassed US$1 billion, coining it a unicorn company.

Today, it is Asia’s largest global sports media property with over 2.7 billion potential viewers across 130 countries.

Although the pandemic has halted their live stadium events, they are literally fighting back by moving their scheduled events to closed-door, audience-free setups instead.

To keep things going, the company has also shifted to creating content for its YouTube channel and Instagram account, and have hit “record highs in social media and digital viewership“.

They also have plans in the pipeline to film a new reality TV series called ‘The Apprentice’ with ONE Championship founder and CEO, Chatri Sityodtong, as the host. The winner will get a US$250,000 job at their Singapore headquarters.

6. Sunseap

sunseap
Image Credit: Asean Records Organization

Sunseap raised S$50 million funding in January and another S$100 million as part of its Series D funding the following month.

The homegrown solar energy provider has won many government tenders and is already powering Singapore’s Apple store.

It will also be supplying solar energy for Facebook’s operations in Singapore, including its first custom-built data centre in Asia.

Recently, Sunseap set up a new green mobility business arm, which aims to install 10,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging points in Singapore by 2030.

Judging by the government’s strong push for sustainable solutions and EV adoption, Sunseap is definitely on track to seeing a strong growth in the year ahead.

7. Shiok Meats

shiok meats
Image Credit: Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats, the world’s first cell-based crustacean meat company, raised US$3 million in June and another US$12.6 million in September.

Its latest round of funding will contribute towards building the first-of-its-kind commercial pilot plant in Singapore, from which it plans to launch its minced shrimp product in 2022.

This puts the startup on schedule to become the first company in the world to have a fully functioning commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean production.

Singapore aims to produce almost a third of the food that it requires by 2030, which has led to a renewed interest in food technology startups such as Shiok Meats.

Moreover, with the increased demand in meat substitutes, Shiok Meats is bound to see a stronger traction in the near future.

8. StashAway

stashaway
Image Credit: StashAway

StashAway raised US$16 million in July, and assets under its management have grown more than 330 per cent in the last year.

Beyond being an investment management platform, StashAway has branched out into financial education with StashAway Academy.

The company plans to expand into a few other countries, though it did not reveal where it’s eyeing for now.

What’s clear however is that they have been seeing steady growth since more people are now thinking about their personal finances in view of the market volatility and the overall uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.

9. 99.co

99.co darius chan
Image Credit: High Net Worth

99 Group, which operates property portal 99.co, has recently acquired property platform and real estate data provider Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the acquisition, 99 Group will acquire all the shares in SRX’s parent company Streetsine Singapore.

The move will bring SRX under the same umbrella as other Singapore property platforms 99.co and iproperty.com.sg.

According to 99 Group, this acquisition will create a widened pool of listings, information and data tools, enabling it to offer consumers and real estate professionals in Singapore better value and more competitive packages.

To support its growth, 99.co also recently announced that it is hiring 100 tech staff across its Singapore and Indonesia offices over the next year.

Moreover, the property resale market in Singapore is at an all-time high now, so it’s no surprise that property startups like 99.co is thriving during this period.

10. Hoolah

hoolah
Image Credit: Stuart Thornton via Medium

Founded in 2018, hoolah brought the instalment-based payment concept to Singapore to help online retailers solve the problem of abandoned shopping carts.

Their service also provides an alternative payment option, besides credit cards, for consumers to purchase big-ticket items as soon as they want.

It raised an eight-figure funding in March to fuel expansion, and has recently expanded into Malaysia.

It has almost 1,000 retail store partners and are cleverly tapping into a growing millennial demand in Asia to ‘buy now, pay later’.

Embrace The Waves

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the real drivers of our economy. Some have been able to ride the wave better than others; some are being driven to the brink of destruction, while others are adapting and flourishing.

Like many aspects of life, in the time of COVID-19, the pandemic also presents a business opportunity.

A key benefit of running a smaller enterprise is its agility and ability to quickly adapt. Amidst the chaos, some stealthy business owners are doing just that — adapting their strategies, their sales channels and their entire ethos to reevaluate, remodel and realign.

This remarkable ability to adapt and pivot has helped both leaders and their businesses evolve and thus survive.

Featured Image Credit: Grab, Carousell, ShopBack, Ninja Van, One Championship, Sunseap, Shiok Meats, StashAway, 99.co, Hoolah

Launched this month, Jellatech is a new biotech startup specialising in creating animal-free and slaughter-free collagen and gelatin by growing cells in a bioreactor. The company says that its ingredients will be purer, safer and more sustainable than its conventionally-made counterparts, and can be applied to remove animals from multiple supply chains, from the food sector to cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina with an R&D base in Wageningen, Netherlands, home to one of Europe’s leading food science centres, Jellatech is a new biotech firm focused on producing pure animal-free collagen and gelatin. Created by two female co-founders, Stephanie Michelsen and Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp, the startup wants to leverage cellular agriculture to eliminate the use of animals in the manufacturing of these ingredients.

Instead of isolating and purifying collagen and gelatin from animals we grow it – using cells in a bioreactor. We don’t require acres of land, live animals, shipping, slaughtering and various complicated processes to produce collagen.

Stephanie Michelsen, Co-Founder & CEO of Jellatech

These two ingredients – collagen and gelatin – are widely used across F&B, skincare and cosmetics and medical and pharmaceutical industries, and make up a global market worth US$3.5 billion dollars with a compound annual growth rate of 9%, making the opportunity for disrupting its animal-dependent supply chain huge.

“Instead of isolating and purifying collagen and gelatin from animals we grow it – using cells in a bioreactor. We don’t require acres of land, live animals, shipping, slaughtering and various complicated processes to produce collagen,” explains CEO and co-founder Michelsen. “With our proprietary method we design, grow and purify collagen and gelatin, all in the same place.”

“Because we have complete control over all stages of the process, the collagen we produce will also be safer, purer, and of higher quality than that extracted from animal carcasses,” adds co-founder and head of science van Deinsen-Hesp.

According to Jellatech, who is supported by New York and Singapore-based accelerator and venture capital fund Big Idea Ventures (BIV) and Sustainable Food Ventures, an alternative protein-focused rolling fund launched by Wild Earth co-founder and CEO Ryan Bethencourt and former food scientist at Finless Foods Mariliis Holm, the new company is the world’s first dedicated cell-cultured collagen and gelatin ingredient startup.

Speaking about the investment, Bethencourt said: “We’re excited to be investing and backing two incredible scientist entrepreneurs on a mission to end the use of animals for collagen and gelatin in the cosmetics and food industries, using cell-based alternatives to animal products is a game changer for our planet and for the animals.”

Because we have complete control over all stages of the process, the collagen we produce will also be safer, purer, and of higher quality than that extracted from animal carcasses.

Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp, Co-Founder & Head of Science at Jellatech

“Jellatech’s approach eradicates the traditional complex steps to purify, concentrate, and dry gelatin from fish skins, bovine bone, and porcine skins,” remarked Andrew D. Ive, managing director and general partner at BIV.

While specifically the first cell-cultured collagen and gelatin ingredient startup, Jellatech is not the only player working to create slaughter-free alternatives for traditionally animal-based ingredients. Biodesign startup Geltor, for instance, uses fermentation technology to create protein ingredients that are clinically demonstrated for high performance and have managed to develop a number of collagen replacement products including HumaColl21 and Collume.

On the heels of its headline-making US$91.3 million Series B funding round, the company says it will be expanding its “Ingredients-as-a-Service” platform in order to meet the growing demand from global consumer goods companies for animal-free ingredients, driven by increasing consumer preferences for ethical and environmentally-friendly products.


Lead image courtesy of Jellatech.

As a part of the Upcycled Food Association’s Annual Membership Meeting, The Future of the Upcycled Food Industry was an opportunity to reflect on a year of being in business and to share upcycled food industry news and accomplishments. There was a keynote address from Christopher Davila, Innovation Program Manager at Whole Foods, and mini-presentations from innovative upcycled food companies.

Most folks are probably familiar with gelatin from making Jell-O as a kid. (It’s fun!) But gelatin is an ingredient actually used to make a variety of food products such as certain candiesyogurts, cream cheese and even wine. The process of making gelatin is definitely not vegan, as it requires the boiling of skin, cartilage and bones of animals. (Not as much fun!)

Jellatech, a startup that just came out of stealth last week, is looking to change that by creating animal-free, cell culture-based gelatin and collagen. In other words, the company grows gelatin, slaughter-free, in a bioreactor (hat tip to CellAgri). Jellatech says that because the company designs, grows and purifies gelatin in the same place, it can better ensure quality, purity and sustainability.

In a world where companies are using labs to create cell-based beefcell-based chicken and cell-based fish, creating cell-based gelatin seems like a no-brainer.

The knock on those cell-based meats, however, has been whether they will ever reach a big enough scale to bring the cost down enough to make it viable (though others disagree). Additionally, there are regulatory issues and potentially public perception problems around eating “lab-grown” facsimiles of the “real” thing.

In this regard then, Jellatech’s decision to go after an ingredient like gelatin seems like a smart play (Geltor is basically doing the same thing). While it will still have regulatory issues to overcome, it’s not a standalone item that people will eat. Instead, it would be an unsung ingredient that goes into other, presumably more delicious products like gummi bears.

Jellatech has already made a proof-of-concept jelly made from cell-based marine collagen that was processed into gelatin. The company expects it will be 18 months before its first commercial-grade product is available.

At the start of November, new startup Jellatech announced its launch as the first cell-based collagen and gelatin company. Founded by Stephanie Michelsen and Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp, Jellatech uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free collagen and gelatin. Traditionally sourced from the bones and skin of livestock animals or fish, Jellatech’s collagen via cellular agriculture offers an alternative and more sustainable way to produce the same animal protein product from animal cells. Without requiring animals in the process.

Supported by Big Idea Ventures and the rolling fund Sustainable Food Ventures, collagen and gelatin have many functions and are used to make a range of different products. From leather and cosmetics to food products, Jellatech aims to unlock the full functionality of collagen and gelatin by growing and harvesting the protein directly from animal cells.

“We’re building the future of collagen and gelatin business”

According to co-founder and CEO Michelsen, the collagen and gelatin ingredient industry is ripe for innovation by addressing the inefficiencies in the collagen and gelatin supply chain.

“The collagen and gelatin space has been around since the 17th century. The interesting part is that it actually hasn’t changed much since then. We’re still using the same methods and processes of depending on animals and using skin, bones, and other leftover bits from the meat industry. You boil it down and use acids and other ingredients to isolate collagen, and, after that, gelatin.”

Jellatech co-founder and CEO Stephanie Michelsen

“The major problem [with the current supply chain] is the fact that it’s animal-based. With Jellatech, we’re solving all these problems and that’s why we’re building the future of collagen and gelatin business.

“Instead of using animals, we use cells to grow, design, and purify collagen and gelatin. This way, we don’t have an inefficient supply chain. We don’t need to ship and slaughter animals. We can create clean, sustainable, and ethical products with applications across various industries, such as food and beverage, cosmetics and skincare, and medical. There is also no disease risk and it’s vegan.”

Michelsen also noted how the collagen industry is growing rapidly around the world. “It’s a $3.5 billion market and it’s growing at about 9% [compound] annual growth rate. So it begs the question: how do you satisfy this growing demand without being dependent on animals when we are so close at our capacity, particularly with marine collagen sources?”

 

The First Cell-Based Collagen and Gelatin Jelly

The first cell-based jelly prototype

Before launching, it was important for the Jellatech team to create a proof of concept of its cell-based collagen and gelatin.  “Our first goal was to make a jelly out of jellyfish and other kinds of marine collagen,” co-founder and CSO van Deinsen-Hesp shared. “Last week, we did that.”

“We managed to make a small jelly out of marine collagen that we processed into gelatin, and that was really exciting.”

In the shape of a jellyfish with a bluish hue, the cell-based gummy appears to be the same size as a gummy bear candy. Jellatech now aims to improve their production process. “We’re hoping to make this a process that we can cost effectively and consistently produce very clean, ethical, and sustainable collagen and gelatin.”

According to van Deinsen-Hesp, marine collagen may have more applications than conventional collagen sources. “Marine collagen is a very precious type of collagen. It’s valued at a higher price than regular collagen. Besides food and beverage, marine collagen is also interesting for its potential applications in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical fields. These are areas that you may not be able to address with either porcine or bovine collagen.”

van Deinsen-Hesp also clarified that Jellatech plans to go beyond cell-based marine collagen and gelatin. “Marine collagen is interesting, but we’re not only looking at it. Our main goal is to make a range of cell-based collagens that we can use for all kinds of products.”

“Instead of having animals in a farm, we have cells in a farm.”

Jellatech co-founder and CSO Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp

Compared to other startups using microorganisms to produce its protein of interest, Jellatech plans to use animal cells to produce its cell-based collagen and gelatin. Interestingly, van Deinsen-Hesp shared that cells naturally produce collagen in cell culture. “At JellaTech, we’re hoping to just let the cells do their thing and grow and make the collagen as they usually would.

“Some researchers would like to have cells not produce collagen because it makes them adhere to the bottom of the vessel they are in. But for us, we really want them to produce this and then we can isolate the collagen that they naturally produce. This would be really clean and high-purity collagen from which we can make all kinds of products.”

Michelsen compares this cell culture process to a better way of farming collagen and gelatin. “Instead of having animals in a farm, we have cells in a farm. Instead of harvesting their bones and skins, we’re harvesting pure collagen.”

In addition, by using the animal cells, van Deinsen-Hesp hopes to take advantage of cellular mechanisms  that microorganisms may lack to achieve full functionality. “Collagen is a very complex protein. It requires a lot of proper folding and post-translational modification, which microorganisms generally don’t do. Among other things, this is why scientists make complex proteins that need these modifications with animal cells, like monoclonal antibodies. They really need to be made in a really specific way.

“Based on that and our knowledge about what collagen is, animal cells will be more efficient and make a much higher quality product than a microorganism would.”

Michelsen also highlighted there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when animal cells efficiently produce collagen. “Instead of trying to make a car fly, let’s make an airplane fly better. We’re already starting with this ability to produce, fold, modify, and secrete collagen. As we view it, we’re starting at a higher starting point and, not only will that help in terms of yield, it will also help in terms of quality and performance later on.”

 

Moving Forward in a Remote World

Moving forward, Michelsen shared that Jellatech plans to raise funds to accelerate their work. “We’re in the stages of raising money that’s very much needed. We’re also going to expand our team. We’re hoping to have a commercial-grade product within 18 months. I’m also hoping to do more market validation and just continue to build on our technology and team.

“We want to fast track our work and get it out there where it can really make a difference. We need to accelerate science as much as we can, even though nature can be stubborn and doesn’t always want to cooperate.”

The team is currently remote with Michelsen based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and van Deinsen-Hesp based in Wageningen, Netherlands.

When asked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their work, van Deinsen-Hesp shared the challenges co-founders had to overcome communicating distantly. “I do think it requires you to be a bit more resourceful in finding a way to do things with all these restrictions. It makes us more creative.”

Michelsen agreed and added the pandemic has made people aware of their food choices. “We’re becoming more aware of how humans impact the environment and then, in return, how that impacts us. Our goal is to let people move away from being dependent on animals. The way we see it, we don’t need them for collagen and gelatin.”

Despite the distance, Michelsen, originally from Denmark, is confident about Jellatech progressing on two fronts with the option of returning to Europe.

“We have our science team in the Netherlands and the business side here in the US. Luckily I’m a Danish citizen, so I can actually get in and out of Europe as well. We currently plan to continue building the science in the Netherlands where Kylie is, and then the business side over here in the US, and hopefully at some point integrate the two or even expand more.”

Photographs by Jellatech, Captured by Camilo F. Muńoz Segovia

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

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